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Warning: mamahood could cause depression

Of late, we have all been under additional pressure, as school has ramped up (probably extracurricular activities too).  The weather might also have something to do with it; while it has still been lovely and mild, the cool air lets us know that winter is ahead.  Sometimes, though, it is just a plain hard period, regardless of season.  The tension of the day-to-day juggle can lead to feelings of intensity, symptoms of depression.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your advice and suggestions: 

I have two kids in diapers, my husband and I just adopted a new work schedule two months ago. He works 4 days a week, I work the other 3 days of the week (all ten hour days) That leaves us zero time as a family. Lately I am crying constantly. My three year old asks "What's wrong Mommy?" and my 19 month old just screams his head off. I love them dearly, but this new schedule is killing us and add to that the wet windy winter weather. I am going to see my doctor tomorrow, I am going to do my best even if it IS against my nature to ask for help. I am going to start taking my fish oil, try to eat more protein, all those things I know I should be doing...if I can just stop sobbing uncontrollably for a day or two. 

So I ask of you, wise mothers of Portland a question two-fold:   Those of you who have faced depression head on...What worked for you?  And I need to laugh, I need great book suggestions re: raising kids and family, please!



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Why are you and your husband doing this to yourselves? You poor thing. Time to sit sown with our husband and insist on reevaluating the impact this schedule is having on the well being of your family. Some things are more important than finances; your children, your mental health and your marriage for starters.
"The Successful Child:
What Parents Can do to Help Their Kids Turn Out Well" by William and Martha Sears has been helpful for me. I sincerely hope you find the balance you you're looking for and commend you for reaching out to this loving lil community we have here on urbanmamas. Even if it's only via internet, know that you have people here that understand and empathize.

Are you and your husband are on the current work schedule to avoid the child care expense? If so, I do understand and sympathize but can't offer any good advice. If, on the other hand, you are just not comfortable with putting your children in daycare (but can afford it) I can tell you that I was agonizing (and crying) a lot before I put mine in daycare. From the perspective of time, I have to say I am so glad she is in daycare. She has learned impressive social skills and is having great time every day. They come up with awesome projects/arts and crafts activities etc and they provide stimulation that my husband and I could not provide better. They taught her to go down for a nap on her own - no crying it out! Toddler peer pressure did the trick. I just wish my work days were shorter. My point is that if you are just trying to avoid daycare at all cost - you may be paying too high of a cost and your children may, in fact, benefit from daycare, while you get a little of a break with your schedule.

After doing a lot of research online, I started taking 1400 mg of St. John's Wort each day to treat my depression. It's far from a "happy pill", but I do think it's made a difference. And no side effects that I'm aware of.

One foot in front of the next is about all I can say about the day to day.

David Sedaris does not write about raising kids, but there is lots about his families. Listening to When You Are Engulfed in Flames on CD in the car made me laugh and smile a lot.

I'm glad you are seeing a doctor. It can be really difficult to ask for help, but mood is no different from any other need your body has. Most of us wouldn't think twice about seeing the doctor for a broken leg, but we think somehow this is different and it is not. I hope it helps.

I can relate to the work schedule. My husband and I have worked our schedule this way for a long time and it is not easy. If you find you need/want to keep it this way, it works best when you really shift your thinking about it and remind yourself why you are choosing it. For us, it meant my husband and I were either at work or being the only parent at home, but when I started missing him and all of us together, I could just remind myself that what he and I were sacrificing was a gift to the children, and that made it more palatable. It is probably not permanent, and I don't know about you but I can do almost anything for a little while.

Hang in there. It does get better.

I recently talked with my doctor about depression as well. Believe me, it took everything in me to admit that I needed help. I started going to a therapist every week. I know...one more thing to schedule, but it was so important to me, my family and marriage to seek professional help. I now go twice a month. Having someone to just unload all my troubles on and work together to figure out how to get better has really worked for me.

Good for you for moving in the "not-depressed" direction! Your attitude is going to be a huge piece of recovery. And...
SLEEEEP! No really, I'm serious. Who cares if your house is messy, get some sleep. Then all that other stuff people have said. You are on the right track!

Exercise is the only thing that keeps this mama off meds! I highly suggest making it a part of your routine. It's good for your head, your body and a nice little break from the kiddos. It saves me.

Crying is one of the ways we heal.
Find a friend who can listen to you while you cry who won't be scared of your big feelings and who can remind you that you are good and can figurer this out. Give yourself full permission to cry really hard
as long as you can knowing there
is nothing "wrong " with you. This will help you think better about what changes you can make in your life to support yourself and your family. There is not near enough support for parents in our society. I am sorry it has been so hard. Crying helps us process feelings and sometimes it takes things being so hard we can't hold things in any longer for us to let them out.

If your insurance allows, I recommend that you also ask your doctor to do a thyroid panel. I found myself crying uncontrollable a few years back and it turned out to be a hyperthyroid. Hypothryroid can cause depression as well. Either is pretty easy to address once identified. That aside, I agree that if there is anyway at all to get one day a week without kids it's really worth doing. I work full-time and I'm loath to give up time with my kids since I feel like I get so little. At the same time, mentally and emotionally, I really start to feel it when I never have a second by myself at home. When I get a free day, I don't even do anything particularly indulgent. Mostly I do chores but even those feel relaxing without having to keep an eye on little ones. And, in the big picture, the breathing room lets me be more of the mommy I want to be on all the other days.

I am right there with you!! Did I write this?? My husband and I flip flop schedules and kids. We have two nights a week as a family and I need to cherish them more. I am also struggling with depression. Have seen my dr. ...have had labs drawn, seeing a counselor(the best $ I spend). And shocker, I am taking an anti-depressant. This all took so much emotional effort to finally admit to myself that I needed help. I'm a nurse and take care of others but don't give myself much care. Lots of people have said.."just start exercising". I just can't when I am having a bad day or a bad week and don't want to leave the house with two kids in tow. But I TRY to get them (4yr and18mo) to go on a walk with me, even for 15 min. And I started taking Vitamin D...(have your dr. check these levels also)I was very deficient. It helps :) Be gentle with yourself. You posting this helps. Thanks, I don't feel so alone. A book I am going to start to read is "Buddhism for Mothers" by Sarah Napthali...maybe it will help too :) (from Bend)

One of the things that a counselor helped me with is the perspective of what we can do. For many of us it is very possible that we can't exercise, work less, "take time out for ourselves," get an outing without the kids, or whatever. Also I became aware of the real meaning of "self care," being different for everyone. For me it was much more basic than making an appointment for a massage, or getting together for coffee with a girlfriend. I didn't have room or resources to make lifestyle changes so what I could do was go on anti-depressants. I've struggled with depression for years and years and stayed off of medication for as much as possible, not wanting to be on it while breastfeeding or pregnant. The only way for me to get to a point where I could think straight enough to do something like take a walk was to take medication, and self care for me was treating my depression and getting away from unhealthy emotional relationships. I schedule a counseling app't every few weeks beside my lunch hour and take sick time for it, and I asked for help with babysitting so I could go to an emotional support group once a week.

It sounds like your depression is overwhelming you and unfortunately it takes a while for medication to kick in but if it is what your doctor recommends I'd consider it. It may just get you to the point where you can feel like you are enjoying your life again, and see where things can change, if they can. Best wishes to you!

What helped me? Zoloft. No kidding. I only had to take it for 9 months. Within 1 week the crying every single day stopped. It is ok if you need anti-depressants, St. John's Wort, therapy, or whatever to help you out. Give yourself a break and find some relief wherever you can. Please give us an update and let us know when you are feeling better!!

You could also try some alternative therapies for depression; we have some many options and resources in Portland. There are clinics that offer very affordable care with sliding scales, too. Therapies like acupuncture and herbal medicine work to restore imbalances that are causing the depression and heal you so that you don't have to depend on drugs indefinitely. One such clinic is http://www.mercyandwisdom.org/

On the other hand, you sound pretty clear about what is causing your stress and it sounds like it ain't just physiological, girlfriend. It's caused by some very real external forces that are too much for you to bear. Well, I know some things in life can't be helped, but remember that TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF and BEING KIND TO YOURSELF and DOING WHAT YOU NEED TO BE HAPPY is fundamental to taking care of your family. It's not a luxury, it's a crucial need. If one of your children was so unhappy they were crying day and night, I can imagine you might quit your job or do whatever it took to make things right for them, even if you had to go on foodstamps. Your own happiness is just as important, and when you take good care of yourself, you're teaching your children to do always the same. I'm not saying you should quit your job, I'm just saying it sounds like something needs to give, and that the situation you are in now is unbearable. Please figure out what you can do to find some time as a family and some time for yourself. Your words say it all: "this new schedule is killing us." I think you have to change something, because if what you're doing now isn't bringing you happiness, health, or time with your family, what is it doing for you that's more important?

For me, I can feel "down" in two distinct ways. The one kind of down is a feeling of being overwhelmed, a feeling that I can fix if I just change a few things, make a few different choices, and let go of control in a few situations. This sort of "down" - for me - can be fixed by a good hard run, or a night out with the mamas, or even just going to the supermarket all alone for 90 minutes.

The other kind of "down", though, is a terrible, heart-sinking down, the kind of "down" that makes me sad to my very core, that makes me physically sad, that makes me cry and weep uncontrollably. THAT is when I KNOW something is truly wrong. I have that feeling every now and then, and I know it needs to be nipped in the bud, I need to seek outside, professional help beyond the support of friends or community. Sometimes it takes meds to get back on track, or sometimes it takes the slow release via talk therapy.

What has worked for me? Being able to identify the difference between these two different feelings and trying to tackle accordingly, either through support from friends or through help from a professional.

I feel for you! Wishing you luck!

I don't have a lot to add-these ladies have said some wonderful, positive things that hopefully you can gain some hope from. I would like to share one thing, though, and that is the Baby Blues Connection, a local organization helping mamas of all types. I used their services with all three of my kiddos and it really helped me. They have a wonderful website, www.babybluesconnection.org. You are welcome to take a look at. Their services include anything from having another mama call and check up on how you are doing, listen to you, etc., to support groups and referrals for a myriad of services.
Above all, please have hope. I have struggled with depression my entire life, and had varying degrees of post-partum depression with three littles. There were times I wasn't sure things would get better, but they did. And they will for you.

Excellent post, Olivia. It sounds like, IMO, the OP knows where the depression is stemming from (work schedule, lack of family time). If this is the case, I think it would be a mistake to send someone to a doctor to get a prescription that would numb over those emotions. We seem to live in a time where we take a pill for everything instead of taking a deeper look at the cause of the symptoms we feel to see if there is something within our control to change the situation. I find that talking about what you are feeling really helps and is a great start. My thoughts are with you, OP.

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